Jaguar Land Rover North America sticks to its diesel strategy amidst VW emission scandal

Article by Andrew Christian, on October 15, 2015

Jaguar Land Rover North America will not tweak its diesel strategy following the recent emission scandal surrounding German carmaker Volkswagen. Speaking at Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit, JLR North America chief executive Joe Eberhardt expressed confidence in the carmaker’s next-generation diesel technology.

Eberhardt said that the JLR will still follow plans to launch diesel engines for almost all of the Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles that will be arriving in the next few years, saying that it is too early to tell how VW’s violations will affect the overall market for diesel-powered vehicles.

He noted that that JLR remains convinced of the advantages brought by diesel engines. Just this month, Land Rover launched its first diesel engines in the United States available on the Range Rover Td6 and the Range Rover Sport Td6.

According to Eberhardt, Land Rover has already sold 332 of these diesel SUVs in the US through Tuesday, representing around 16 percent of total Range Rover and Range Rover Sport volume. He said the company aims to have diesel-powered JLR vehicles to account for between 15 percent and 20 percent of the total sales, adding that the carmaker seemed to be on track on achieving that goal.

While the Range Rover Td6 and Range Rover Sport Td6 are around $1,500 more expensive than their gasoline V-6 counterparts, they are also 32 percent more fuel efficient than them. The diesel Range Rover returns 25 combined city/highway mpg compared to the V-6’s 19 mpg.

JLR will launch diesel versions of all its vehicles in the US, except on the Jaguar F-Type. According to JLR spokesman Stuart Schorr, the carmaker will launch diesel versions of most of its car and light-truck models -- except for the Jaguar XJ -- by the end of 2017.

A diesel variant of the XJ will be launched later. He remarked that while the diesel-powered Range Rovers have been certified by US Environmental Protection Agency, it is still unknown if EPA will perform emissions tests on the Range Rover Td6 and the Range Rover Sport Td6.

Following the VW emission scandal, the EPA decided not to depend only on laboratory emissions tests in certifying mpg numbers of vehicles. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board have already told General Motors that they would not certify the diesel variant of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon until the pickups undergo emissions tests on the road.

According to Eberhardt, he expects JLR’s potential customer base in the US will triple as the carmaker launches the new XE compact sport sedan and F-Pace compact crossover, from the current 380,000 potential customers to around 1.2 million.

Eberhardt’s comments came as VW is facing possibly huge fines and recalls for breaching US emissions rules. In fact, VW already made an admission to having employed special software on almost 500,000 vehicles covering 200 to 2015 model years just to by-pass diesel emissions tests by EPA and CARB.

Following his remarks, Eberhardt told reporters that he expects the carmaker’s dealer network in the US to post some growth over the next five years, from 220 total dealerships to between 240 and 250 retailers at most.

He remarked that Jaguar intends to play a more aggressive role in the US premium market partly by expanding its lineup to enter volume segments and partly by offering better pricing and more standard equipment than those offered by its rivals. Jaguar posted a 4.4-percent year-on-year drop in US sales in the first eight months of the year.

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